Flathead Lake Cherry Buckwheat Bars are made with cherries from the Flathead Lake Region in MT which make these bars super special, but you can use a sweet cherry from anywhere to make these delicious bars.
The story behind Flathead Lake Cherry Buckwheat Bars
Traveling with BB for work recently took us to "Big Sky" country. That would be Montana for those who don't know the term "Big Sky" country. I had only been to Missoula, Mt to visit my SIL and her husband during the Thanksgiving holiday before, winter, where there's snow on the ground; the turkey can brine in a container on the back patio and beer is kept cold on the porch railings, leaving precious room in the refrigerator for other sides and such. But had never been in the summer.
Summer is way different than winter. The big sky is blue (well, except for the one day it poured rain...I mean poured rain); but otherwise, blue skies with high puffy clouds prevailed throughout our trip. Pretty country.
Feel free to use any sweet cherry when making these fruity bars.
One of our events was taking place in Bigfork, a small one street one stop sign town, lined on both sides with art galleries and chachki shops. One of the owners of the winery owns a gallery there and wanted us to do an event for her friends and patrons. Always happy to oblige.
Also known for it recreational sports, Bigfork is on Flathead Lake; the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.
And big it is.
As soon as anyone heard we were headed to Flatlake they would exclaim "Oh, you have to get some Flathead Lake Cherries, they are in season right now and they are the BEST cherries anywhere". Well, color me happy...cherry cherry happy. I love discovering local foods, just like the New Mexico Hatch Chile. Sure enough, once we got to the right side of Flathead Lake, there were cherry stands everywhere. Buy fresh cherries. Cherries sold here. U Pick EM.
Groves of cherry trees line the road. All photos were taken at about 60 MPH because when BB drives, we don't stop for pictures...places to go, people to see...
Finally, we stopped at a stand, in the still pouring rain, to purchase our Flathead Lake cherries.
Their sign said "Lampins".
What? Where are the Flathead Lake cherries we are supposed to buy?
Here's what I learned about "Flathead Lake" cherries.
1. There is no such thing as a "Flathead Lake" cherry. Flathead Lake is just a very large growing area for many varieties of cherries including Vanns, Lamberts, Rainiers, and Lapins. All are sweet cherries that ripen at various times in the growing season, which is from spring to mid-summer - depending of course on the weather.
2. They are deliciously sweet when bought right from the farm stand, however, they do not travel well in a suitcase with your clothes. Well, they travel well, your clothes, not so much.
3. To remove cherry stains from clothing soak for a few hours in a solution of ⅓ cup vinegar to 1-gallon cool water and ¼ cup of Oxy-clean. Then wash as usual.
Since my clothes had already taken a beating, and I'd enjoyed just popping cherries into my mouth during my travels, I decided to do something deliciously different with my remaining Lapin cherries, I decided to make some bars and fill them with cherries and cherry preserves. Cherries are a low-fat, high-fiber fruit that is also relatively low in calories. I'd seen a recipe using a preserve for a filling along with fruit, so I thought that was a great idea, and I liked the idea of using more healthy buckwheat flour, along with all-purpose flour to give these that extra oomph.
Buckwheat flour in its natural grayish state
What is Buckwheat Flour?
Buckwheat Flour is not a grass which makes it gluten-free. It's also higher in protein than all-purpose, but because of its natural grey/brown color, it doesn't make a really pretty golden-brown crust. Buckwheat flour also lends a certain nuttiness to the bar, without adding actual nuts. Of course, anytime there is real butter in the crust, well, buttery goodness is one of my favorites things in a dessert, along with fruit.
Do I have to use Flathead Lake Cherries?
So the truth be told, while this recipe is called Flathead Lake Cherry Buckwheat Bars, which do have their own flavor coming from their specific terroir, it can be made with any sweet cherry. Even ones from the great state of Washington. Or Oregon. Or even good old California. Just make sure they are sweet, and preferably, in season.
How to pit a fresh cherry
Pitting cherries can be a PITA. There are a number of ways it can be done, the scoop method, the straw inserted into one end and push the pit method, or using a cherry pitter. I've tried them all and, hands down, cherry pitter wins! It's not an expensive piece of equipment and will pit olives as well, so it's also not a single-use piece of equipment. So invest in one if you plan to make these bars.
So, grab your cherry pitter and let's go make us some ooey-gooey juicy Flathead Lake Cherry Buckwheat Bars.
LindySez: BB took the leftover bars to work where they received 5-stars from the staff although a few said that they "weren't pretty" to look at. And that's true. The color of buckwheat flour is not conducive to a "pretty" finish. The powdered sugar on the top does help...so let's go with not so pretty, but good
Wine Recommendation: And I'll be honest, while these bars are delicious with a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of cold milk, I enjoyed mine with a glass of Myer Family California Port. A tawny port with hints of nuts and chocolate = perfect pairing.
Flathead Lake Cherry Buckwheat Bars
- For the Crust
- 2 cups all-purpose flour - to keep these gluten-free use a gluten-free flour
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar light or dark
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 large egg beaten
- For the Filling
- 3 cups pitted sweet cherries cut into quarters (a little over 1 pound when weighed with the pits - 1 pound when pitted)
- 1 12 - 13 ounce jar cherry preserves
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Optional Ingredient
- Powdered Sugar for dusting and making pretty
- Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare the Crust: In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the flour, buckwheat flour, sugars, salt, and baking powder. Pulse until well combined. Add the butter and using on/off pulses pulse until the mixture looks like sand; add the egg and pulse until well distributed. Note: The dough will look like coarse meal, but should hold together when pressed. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.
- Prepare the Filling: In a small saucepan combine the cherries and the preserves. Heat until the preserves melt. Combine the lemon juice and the cornstarch together, mix well then add to the preserves/cherry mixture. Heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan and line with parchment paper; allowing the paper to overlap by 1-inch on each end. Press half the dough into the pan, patting with your fingers and knuckles to achieve an even thickness. Spread the cherry mixture evenly over the top; then sprinkle the remaining dough over the filling, pressing slightly to form a top crust. Place in the oven and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, or until the top is goldenish and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before removing the bars from the pan using the overlapped parchment. Cut into 24 squares.
- Bars can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 days, or refrigerate.